The Dignity of the Individual and of Peoples: The Contribution of Mesopotamia and of Syriac Heritage Joseph Yacoub

Posted by on Oct 13, 2015 in Library | Comments Off on The Dignity of the Individual and of Peoples: The Contribution of Mesopotamia and of Syriac Heritage Joseph Yacoub

Diogenes (International Council for Philosophy and Humanistic Studies) 54 no3 19-37 2007

‘Respect engenders favour.’
Babylonian precept
‘Do not gather riches, for fear that your heart be perverted. … To one who is just, succour must be brought; All those who stand opposed will go to their ruin.’
The Wisdom of Ahikar the Assyrian
Dignity — a fundamental notion
The notion of dignity is primordial for upon it rests the basis of the various categories of human rights.(FN1) It stands as an intrinsic, universal, untouchable and inalienable value, whatever the circumstances.(FN2) It is also a rule of law which demands the respect due to the individual human person independently of any determination. It goes without saying that this demand extends to cover not only individuals but also specific communities such as nations, ethnic groups, tribes, peoples, minorities and indigenous peoples; for what is true for the human person is equally true for communities. For just as there exists a dignity of the individual and an autonomy that is proper to each person, so there exists also a dignity of the collectivity and an autonomy proper to each people, that is to say, its freedom of choice unimpeded by exterior pressure. Peoples are the bearers of cultural traditions and social and religious practices which must be respected in all circumstances independently of any reductive prism through which they may be passed, or of any presupposition or any hegemonic ambition.
What human dignity means and how it is manifest is enshrined in international law (United Nations, Unesco,(FN3) etc.) and in the domestic law of nation-states. It is the hard core of the central kernel of human rights. Put another way, the sacred character of the human person and of particular communities cannot in any way be historicized. It is an imperative norm, or ins cogens, which means that, in the hierarchy of norms, the principle of dignity is placed at the very top. In the words of Kant, it is a ‘categorical imperative’; which means that this right may not suffer any possible divergence and its recognition implies the assumption of responsibilities erga homines.
But this is expressed by a diversity of approaches and may, in its application, take on different forms.
The notion of dignity does not date simply from the modern era. Its origins go far back in time, to ancient Mesopotamia and Syria.
Mesopotamia was a land of manifold treasures where civilization may be said to have begun. The essential nature of man and his inherent dignity is a notion that was shared by the Mesopotamian and Syriac culture. In its codes of law and their prologues and epilogues, in the etymological roots of its languages, in its proverbs and its wisdom literature, such as the Wisdom of Ahikar the Assyrian (7th century BCE),(FN4) a guiding thread may be found revealing a conception of man and a pursuit of equality, justice and equity based on ethical and moral foundations, and given substance by the rules of law.(FN5) Paul Garelli wrote: ‘As much as Rome perhaps, it (Mesopotamia) was the Land of Law’.
Both the Mesopotamian and Syriac lexicons were very richly endowed with terms relating to dignity, truth, justice and equity. Just as the preceding codes of law from the 3rd millennium BCE had done (the codes of Urukagina, Gudea, Ur-Nammu, Eshnunna and Lipit-Ishtar), the prologue of the Hammurabi Code stipulates that this text was promulgated ‘to destroy the evil and the wicked’ and ‘so that the strong may not oppress the weak’.(FN6) The code embraces a permanent concern for widows, orphans and the poor, which is always expressed through the laying down of measures of protection. In the same vein, the narratives of Mesopotamia, (with the Gilgamesh Epic as the prime example) contain a reflection on the nature of existence and human destiny.
For its part, as heir to this civilization, the Syriac cultural and linguistic heritage,(FN7) a direct descendant of the Akkadian culture, enshrined human dignity (in Syriac iqara, derived from the root iqar) and the dignity of peoples, along with justice and the rule of law, as the principal axis of thought and behaviour, as is found in the writings of Tatian (110-80 CE), Bardaisan (154-222 CE), Aphraates (or Aphrahat) (270-346 CE) and Michael the Syriac (1126-99), who all proclaimed the rights of peoples and were pioneers of cultural identity and diversity. Tatian criticized the claims of the Greeks to cultural hegemony, Bardaisan assumed the role of defender of cultural diversity, Aphraates was noted for his wisdom, his defence of help for the poor and his praise of humility, while Michael the Syriac’s thought is in no way divergent from the concept of dignity proclaimed in ancient Mesopotamia. In short, these works contain landmark affirmations of human dignity. Indeed, a Syriac maxim states: ‘receive all human creatures with dignity’ (Kabel l’nash b’iqara). From the noun Iqar there are several derived cognates and this root has given the noun and pronoun Iaqira, which means ‘worthy’ or ‘noble’.
Furthermore, the canon law of the Nestorian branch of the Eastern Church had a rich and precise range of lexicographic and terminological forms relating to justice and dignity. This code of law which ‘reflects the distant influence of Babylonian law’ (Jean Dauvillier),(FN8) distinguishes between revealed or ideal law (Namoussa), applied law (Dina) dictated by practical reason, justice in the sense of equity (Trissouta), probity (Kinouta) and justice in the sense of legality (Zadikouta).
In the same way, the missionary policies of this Church throughout Asia, as in India and China, was marked by its sense of respect for local traditions and was an early example of acculturation, that is of acknowledging the autonomy of the other. Asia became ‘Nestorian’ without giving up its own identity and this was the first universal Church to recognize individuality of cultures. This avoidance of cultural hegemony should provide food for thought for today.
1. Ancient Mesopotamia: foundations of ethics and morality
‘Justice! Therein lay indeed one of the major preoccupations of the Babylonians.’
Charles Virolleaud(FN9)
‘There is no doubt that the Assyrian penal code is the cruellest one that has been known. At the same time, this society, which thought nothing of hurling captives to wild beasts, pushed the concern for justice to an unparalled degree … The sense of justice seems to have preceded in the heart of man both pity and forbearance.’
Guillaume Cardascia(FN10)
Mesopotamia was a structured society, endowed with an effective system of state government and enriched by a highly developed sense of the general interest, where people could have their voices heard through institutional channels. Much has been written of the contribution made by the Assyrians and Babylonians to civilization and on their rich mythological and literary heritage in relation to stories about the creation of the world and the appearance of man, as well as in the field of the codification of law and juridical responsibility, justice and the rational organization of the society. A few of the major juridical texts directed towards the regulation of civil life which are infused with a spirit of justice deserve to be mentioned.(FN11) On the importance of law among the peoples of the Near East, Jean Deshayes writes: ‘The idea of a written law was certainly one of the greatest achievements of Near Eastern thought: it established the universality of law and ensured evenness of judgements, it provided a recourse against the arbitrary, it could even constrain a monarch to account for his crimes …’.(FN12)
But here we are concerned with bringing attention to their conception of man and his dignity, their representation of the world and the universe, the relationship they established between temporality and divinity and the way they conceived morality. The people of Mesopotamia gave a great deal of thought to what constituted the principal aspects of the human condition and on the ultimate commandment of the divine.(FN13) Behind their conception of the gods(FN14) can be discerned a symbolic dimension of an ethical and moral nature,(FN15) as well as their approach to law. The prologue of the Code of Hammurabi declares in this regard that this text was laid down by this ‘humble and pious’ king in order to ‘further the well-being of mankind’:
… Then Anu and Bel called by name me, Hammurabi, the exalted prince who feared God, to bring about the rule of righteousness in the land, to destroy the wicked and the evil-doers; so that the strong should not harm the weak; so that I should rule over the black-headed people like Shamash, and enlighten the land.
Wishing to guarantee the safety of his peoples, the preamble of Hammurabi’s Code concludes thus:
When Marduk sent me to rule over men, to give the protection of right to the land, I placed right and righteousness in the mouth of the land and brought about the well-being of the oppressed.
Hence, as the epilogue to the Code affirms:
… in my shelter I have let my people repose in peace; in my deep wisdom have I enclosed them, that the strong might not injure the weak, and that the widow and the orphan might be protected. Let the oppressed, who has a case at law, come and stand before this my image as king of righteousness; let him read the inscription and understand my precious words. He will find out what is just, and his heart will be glad, so that he will say: ‘Hammurabi is truly a father to us!’
Referring to the moral ideals of the Sumerians, and quoting in this regard the example of Urukagina, a prince of the city of Lagash (2400-2300 BCE), the great Sumerologist Samuel Noah Kramer writes: ‘If we may credit their own chronicles, the Sumerians placed great value on uprightness and truth, the observation of law and order, justice and liberty, righteousness and sincerity, pity and compassion. They abhorred evil-doing and deceit, anarchy and disorder, injustice and oppression, guilty acts and perversity, cruelty and insensitivity. Their kings were constantly proud of enforcing respect for the rule of law and order in their cities and throughout their lands, of protecting the weak against the strong and the poor against the rich, of having extinguished evil and established peace’.(FN16) Gudea, the other prince of Lagash, effectively pursued this work of reform. The same was done by the kings of Ur (like Ur-Nammu) and of Isin (like Lipit-Ishtar).
These ancestors of the Syriacs were animated by a strong religious sentiment and all their thought was infused by it. For them, the supreme dignity lay firstly with the gods, and descended from them to man. Their universalism embraced the whole world and all men; it was filled with perpetual questioning about the origins of man and how he should be governed. From the Mesopotamian perspective, man was not an absolute being, nor the centre of the universe, but he was charged with serving the gods even though remaining free. The Epic of Gilgamesh incorporated many moral lessons showing the limits of man’s life:
Why, o Gilgamesh, did you prolong woe, You who are formed of the flesh of the gods and mankind, You for whom the gods acted like fathers and mothers? … No one sees death, No one sees the face of death, No one hears the voice of death, But cruel death cuts off mankind.
(Tablet X, 285-7, 303-6)
Wishing to brave all obstacles, including that of crossing the sea, Gilgamesh hears the tavern-keeper reply to him in these terms:
Gilgamesh, wherefore do you wander? Gilgamesh, there has never been a place to cross. There has been no one from the dawn of time who could ever cross this sea. The valiant Shamash alone can cross this sea, Save for the Sun, who could cross this sea? The crossing is perilous, highly perilous the course, And midway lie the waters of death, whose surface is impassable. Suppose, Gilgamesh, you do cross the sea, When you reach the waters of death, what will you do?
(Tablet X, 77, 103-11)
Finally, Gilgamesh has to become resigned to the mortal condition. The Assyro-Babylonian creation stories affirm furthermore the impermanence and temporality of this natural world:
Do we build a house forever? Do we make a home forever? Do brothers divide an inheritance forever? Do disputes prevail in the land forever? Do rivers rise in flood forever?
(Tablet X, 307-11)(FN17)
Since man is a creature of the gods, he is consequently smitten by limitations and is inevitably subject to them in his quest for immortality. The gods are perceived as controlling the affairs of heaven and earth. In this theocentric universe, they ‘direct mortal men’ and the government of mankind and ‘hold in their hand the mastery over all peoples’. Thus it was, as Jean Bottéro and Samuel N. Kramer write: ‘when the gods made man’ (the title of their joint work).(FN18)
The following proverbs well illustrate this moral theology of man: ‘Man is the shadow of God’, ‘Fear God and honour the king’ and ‘The testing of the soul is the way to wisdom’. It was also said that ‘Man’s acts do not last forever. Man and his works share an equal end.’
The rulers must therefore fear the gods, for it is they who determine the fate of all lands. It was a significant symbolic representation that showed the legislator Hammurabi standing to receive his code from the hands of the seated Shamash, god of ‘truth and justice’.(FN19)
On the other hand, and contrary to an idea widely disseminated throughout the West, which tends to consider the East as a land perpetually governed by despots, Mesopotamia limited the power of the ruler to that of serving the people, under pain of seeing his power overthrown by the gods. One reads: ‘If a ruler does not practise justice, his people will descend into anarchy, and his land will be devastated. If he does not observe the justice of his land, Ea, god of destinies, will alter his destiny and will pursue him with ceaseless hostility’. Article 3 of the Sumerian code of Ur-Nammu stipulates: ‘If someone has arbitrarily detained (another), this man will be cast into prison and will pay 15 shekels of silver’. The prologue to the code of Lipit-Ishtar, king of Isin (19th century BCE) portrays this king as an ‘obedient’ and ‘humble shepherd, appointed by Nunamnir, to establish justice in the land, to draw away complaint from the mouths of the people, to turn aside wickedness, ill-will and violence, to establish well-being in Sumer and Akkad’.(FN20) Lipit-Ishtar continues: ‘In exceptional fashion, I truly established that a father should support his children, I truly established that children should support their father; I truly established that the father should be on hand to meet the needs of his children, I truly established that the children should be on hand to meet the needs of their father.’ On the indispensable integrity of judges and their impartiality, the Code of Hammurabi prescribes: ‘If a judge try a case, reach a decision, and present his judgement in writing; if later error shall appear in his decision, and it be through his own fault, then he shall pay twelve times the fine set by him in the case, and he shall be publicly removed from the judge’s bench, and never again shall he sit there to render judgement’ (Article 5).
2. Syriac cultural and linguistic heritage
Syriac is, first and foremost, the Aramaic of Christianity; along with Greek, Coptic and Armenian, it is one of the great literary and liturgical languages of the Christian East.(FN21)
On the aspect of dignity, we have opted for the study of four Syriac thinkers, Tatian, Bardaisan, Aphraates and Michael the Syriac, called the Great (in Syriac, Mikhail Rabo).
Tatian (110-180 CE): censor of the Greeks and defender of identities
‘… So, bidding farewell to the arrogance of the Romans and the idle talk of the Athenians, and all their ill-connected opinions, I embraced our barbaric philosophy.’
Tatian, Address to the Greeks, ch. XXXV
Born around 110 CE, Tatianos (or Tatian) was an Assyrian thinker from the province of Adiabene (in the north of the modern Iraq).(FN22) He was a trenchant critic of Greek culture and philosophy which he treated with withering scorn, for which reason he was hated by those in the West. Brought up in the Greek culture and moving to Rome near the middle of the 2nd century (155-165), once there Tatian converted to Christianity. Rigorous in thought and habits and given to a radical asceticism, he declared himself Assyrian in contrast with the Greco-Romans. Here is what he said of himself:
These things, O Greeks, I Tatian, a disciple of the barbarian philosophy, have composed for you. I was born in the land of the Assyrians, having been first instructed in your doctrines, and afterwards in those which I now undertake to proclaim. Henceforth, knowing who God is and what is His work, I present myself to you prepared for an examination concerning my doctrines, while I adhere immovably to that mode of life which is according to God.
(Oration to the Greeks, ch. XLII).
He broke with the Greeks and the Romans, vehemently protesting against their ‘pretentiousness’ and their ‘vanity’, they who considered as barbarian all who were not of their cultural heritage. In this regard, he composed a polemical work directed against the Greeks which he called Oratio ad Graecos (Oration to the Greeks), in which he denounced the Greeks and their way of life from the perspective of Christian apology. In it he developed a virulent critique of Greek culture in all its dimensions.
Tatian had a vast knowledge of peoples and lands, notably of the Near East. He chides the Greeks for having slavishly copied from the cultures of eastern peoples. Under the guise of ‘invention’, he said, the Greeks did no more than ‘imitate’ the other civilizations without admitting it. In response to the Greek claim of having brought civilization to the world, Tatian presents the opposite argument that, to the contrary, all new social and cultural developments were initiated by the Barbarians. What is it to be Greek, he wonders. He lectures the Greeks in these terms:
Be not, O Greeks, so very hostilely disposed towards the Barbarians, nor look with ill-will on their opinions. For which of your institutions has not been derived from the Barbarians? The most eminent of the Telmessians invented the art of divining by dreams; the Carians, that of prognosticating by the stars; the Phrygians, and the most ancient Isaurians, augury by the flight of birds; the Cyprians, the art of inspecting victims. To the Babylonians you owe astronomy; to the Persians, magic; to the Egyptians, geometry; to the Phoenicians, instruction by alphabetic writing. Cease then to miscall these imitations inventions of your own … Wherefore lay aside this conceit, and be not ever boasting of your elegance of diction; for, while you applaud yourselves, your own people will of course side with you. But it becomes a man of sense to wait for the testimony of others, and it becomes men to be of one accord also in the pronunciation of their language. But as matters stand, to you alone it has happened not to speak alike even in common intercourse; for the way of speaking among the Dorians is not the same as that of the inhabitants of Attica, nor do the Aeolians speak like the Ionians. And, since such a discrepancy exists where it ought not to be, I am at a loss whom to call a Greek.
(Oration, ch. I)
To counter the pretensions of the Hellenes, and validate the dignity of the ‘Barbarian’ peoples, Tatian looked for arguments from history confirming the prior development of these eastern peoples. In pursuit of this end he searched back as far as was possible into history. In support of his thesis, he looks to the authority of Berosus [or Berrosus], a Babylonian priest and historian (3rd century BCE).(FN23) Tatian speaks of the ‘idle talk of the Greeks’ and of their ‘ill-connected opinions’.
Consequently, he stridently affirms his break with the Greeks and the Romans and his return to the sources of his culture:
… bidding farewell to the arrogance of the Romans and the idle talk of the Athenians, and all their fin-connected opinions, I have embraced our barbaric philosophy. I began to show how this was more ancient that your institutions, but left my task unfinished, in order to discuss a matter which demanded more immediate attention; but now is the time I should attempt to speak concerning its doctrines. Be not offended with our teaching, nor undertake an elaborate reply filled with trifling and ribaldry, saying: “Tatian, aspiring to be above the Greeks, above the infinite number of philosophic inquirers, has struck out a new path and embraced the doctrines of Barbarian”. For what grievance is it that men manifestly ignorant should be reasoned with by a man of like nature with ourselves? Or how can it be irrational, according to your own sophist, to grow old always learning something?
(Oration, ch. XXXV)
He goes on to mention Moses and Nebuchadnezzar and again quotes Berosus:
… The Moses before mentioned will be shown to have been many years older than the taking of Troy, and far more ancient than the building of Troy,(FN24) or than Tros and Dardanus. To demonstrate this I will call in as witnesses the Chaldeans, the Phoenicians and the Egyptians. And what more need I say? For it behoves one who professes to persuade his hearers to make his narrative of events very concise. Berosus, a Babylonian, a priest of their god Belus, born in the time of Alexander, composed for Antiochus [I, Soter], the third after him, the history of the Chaldeans in three books; and, narrating the acts of the kings, he mentions one of them, Nebuchadnezzar by name, who made war against the Phoenicians and the Jews, events which we know were announced by our prophets, and which happened much later than the age of Moses, seventy years before the Persian empire. But Berosus is a very trusty man, and of this Juba(FN25) is a witness, who, writing concerning the Assyrians, says that he learned the history from Berosus: there are two books of his concerning the Assyrians.
(Oration, ch. XXXVI)
Bardaisan (154-222 CE): philosopher and anthropologist of cultural diversiht
‘… We men are all led in the same way by nature and in different ways by destiny, but in the end each leads his life as he will with the help of freedom.’
Bardaisan had an awareness of the nature of various peoples, and hence was a pioneer in this field. Deriving his inspiration from eastern philosophy, Bardaisan (his name in its Syriac form)(FN26) was the author of a work named Ktawa d’Namoussé d’Atrawatha (The Discourse on Fate, or The Book of the Laws of Divers Countries), in which he sets out his philosophy of man in terms of his nature, destiny and freedom, as well as discussing the laws by which various lands are ruled and setting up a table of the peoples of his time. His theory is complex, in that all things are relative. Nature is subject to immutable laws, fate is the power that the single creator God has given to the stars to modify the conditions of human life, its influence impinging on the individual at the moment of birth (horoscope), while the will is the freedom of action which allows that individual to do good or evil in all domains that are not determined by nature or fate. His thought contains nevertheless a reflection in support of the concept of free will and the moral responsibility of each person. Yet, faithful to the ancient Chaldeans whom he quotes extensively, for him not everything depends on our sole will. The planets, in their relations to each other, impinge upon the horoscopes of individuals, but people subject to a same destiny will act in differing ways in accordance with their laws, which may depend, among other factors, on the climate of the country. Many centuries before Montesquieu, Bardaisan discoursed on the conditions by which the laws of nations were determined. But these same laws, which men obey, are for Bardaisan but the processes of fate in a different form. People in different countries obey their diverse laws without the planets being able to turn them away from these.
In his Discourse, he describes the customs and laws of the peoples of the East. He encompasses in this list peoples as diverse as Chinese (Seres), Hindus and Brahmins from India,(FN27) Egyptians, Persians (Medes and Parthians), Gelians, Bactrians (or Kushans), Racamians, Edessans, Jews, Arabs, the people of Hatra, Romans, Greeks, Germans, Celts, Gauls, Britons, Amazons, Chaldeans, Numidians, Libyans, Mauritanians, the inhabitants of Spain, Alans, Albanians, Saxons, Borusians, Sarmatians …. On the social customs of the Romans, he writes: ‘Among the Romans too, he that commits a small theft is scourged and sent about his business’. Comparing the customs of the Parthians, Romans and Greeks, he writes: ‘There are many places, too, in the kingdom of the Parthians, where men kill their wives, and their brothers, and their children, and incur no penalty; while among the Romans and the Greeks, he that kills one of these incurs capital punishment, the severest of penalties.’
It is interesting to highlight what Bardaisan says concerning the conversion to Christianity insofar as it brought about radical change in the customs and traditions of the peoples he so closely describes: ‘And what shall we say of the new race of us Christians, whom Christ at his Advent planted in every country and in every region? For wherever we are, we are called after the one name of Christ. On one day, the first of the week, we assemble ourselves together, and … we abstain from taking sustenance. The brethren who are in Gaul do not take males for wives, nor those who are in Parthia two wives; nor do those who are in Judaea circumcise themselves; nor do our sisters who are among the Geli consort with strangers; nor do those brethren who are in Persia take their daughters for wives, nor do those who are in Media abandon their dead, or bury them alive, or give them as food to the dogs; nor do those who are in Edessa kill their wives or their sisters when they commit adultery, but they withdraw from them, and give them over to the judgement of God; nor do those who are in Hatra stone thieves to death; but, wherever they are, and in whatever place they are found, the laws of the several countries do not hinder them from obeying the law of their Sovereign, Christ; nor does the Fate of the celestial Governors [i.e. the planets] compel them to make use of things which they regard as impure. On the other hand, sickness and health, and riches and poverty, things which are not within the scope of their freedom, befall them wherever they are.’
A further extract links the themes of fate, nature and freedom: ‘The nature of man is, that he should be born, and grow up, and rise to his full stature, and produce children, and grow old, eating and drinking and sleeping and waking, and that then he should die. These things, because they are of nature, belong to all men; and not only to all men only, but also to some animals … For this is the work of physical nature which makes and produces and regulates everything just as it has been commanded. Nature … is found to be maintained among animals also in their actions … Men, on the contrary, are not governed thus; but whilst in the matters pertaining to their bodies they preserve their nature like animals, in the matters pertaining to their minds they do that which they choose, as those who are free and endowed with power, and as made in the likeness of God … For hence it will be evident that for those things which are not in our own hands, but which we have from nature, we are in no wise condemned, nor are we in any wise justified; but by those things which we do in the exercise of our personal freedom, if they be right we are justified and entitled to praise, and if they be wrong we are condemned and subjected to blame.’ He concludes: ‘And thus we men are found to be governed by Nature all alike, and by Fate variously, and by our freedom each as he chooses.’
Yacoub Aphraates (Aphrahat) (270-346 CE): wisdom, help and humility
‘Humility gives birth to wisdom and discernment, prudence is the possession of the humble.’
Yacoub Aphraates was surnamed the ‘Persian sage’ for the depth of his thought, his spirituality and his mysticism, and the wealth of his knowledge. He composed several works in Syriac, of which the most well known is the Tahwyatha (Demonstrations), which offers homilies on metaphysical, theological, social and spiritual questions. In these he addresses such themes as faith, love, charity, prayer, war, penitence, humility, the nations, the Passover, almsgiving, persecution, and death and the last days. He touches also on social questions such as the corruption of morality, the intestinal dissension within the Eastern Church, the lack of moral integrity and the simony of the upper clergy, on marriage, on covetousness and on the corruption of power.
Let man be ‘humble, gentle and wise’, he said, let his ‘speech be calm and pleasant, let his thought be sincere towards all men; let him speak with due gravity, may his mouth be a barrier against the spread of unwise words, and may excessive laughter be banished far from him’.(FN29) He adds ‘though he be oppressed, yet let him not oppress’.(FN30) Humility is ‘good in all seasons, it frees from all troubles those who come unto it’ and ‘wholeness of spirit is brought to birth by it’.(FN31) Thus he speaks in praise of humility: ‘Soft is the word of the humble and radiant his face. He laughs and rejoices … The humble do not partake of anything that is evil, and their countenance lights up from the goodness of their heart. When the humble man speaks, his words are melodious; his lips convey laughter, even when his words are not understood. The humble man turns from dispute, for it causes jealousy. When he hears words spoken in anger, the humble man will stop his ears so they will not enter his heart. The thoughts of the humble engender all that is good, and the workings of his mind meditate on that which is beautiful ….’
On the union of man and woman in marriage, in relation to the dignity of the couple, he writes: ‘We have heard it said in the law: the man will leave his father and mother and will cleave to his wife, and they two will be one flesh. And truly that is a great and mighty prophecy. But does he therefore forsake his father and mother when he takes a wife? Here is the meaning: While a man has not taken to himself a wife, he will love and honour God as his Father and the Holy Spirit as his Mother, and he will have no other love before them. But when the man takes a wife, he leaves his father and his mother, those mentioned above, and his mind cleaves to this world, his mind and heart and thought are drawn far from God into the world which he will love and cherish as a man does for the wife of his youth (Prov. 5, 18); and this love is different from that of his father and mother ….’ Scripture further says: ‘they will be two in one flesh, and it is true that as man and woman become one flesh and one thought, so do their minds and thoughts stray from their father and their mother; in the same way as well the man who has not yet taken a wife, and who lives in solitude, is of one mind and one thought with his Father.’
For Aphraates, with the coming of Christianity, the word grew in diversity and the multitude of peoples replaced the one people.(FN32) And in Demonstration XX, Aphraates becomes the fervent defender of the poor and disinherited: ‘He who acts in this way will be as an abundant orchard, as a spring whose waters will never cease; his justice will go before him, and he will be linked with the honour of the Lord.'(FN33)
Michael the Syriac, or the dignity of the Mesopotamian people (1126-99)
Born in Malatya (modern Turkey), Michael the Syriac, patriarch of the Jacobite Syriac Church of Antioch, was an eminent historian. He most notably wrote a famous universal Chronicle (1196) in Syriac,(FN34) which retraces history from Adam until the Flood, then from the Flood to Abraham (a period of 1081 years), then from Abraham until the year 1195 of the modern era.
Michael the Syriac sought to re-establish the facts of the history of Mesopotamia. He gave specific senses to the terms Mesopotamia, Assyria, Babylonia and Chaldea as well as distinguishing Syriac and Aramaic. He elucidated the confusion surrounding use of the terms ‘Assyrian’, ‘Syrian’ and ‘Syriac’, and threw light on the origin of the Assyro-Chaldeans, the reasons for the hellenization of their culture, the enduring permanence of the Mesopotamian civilization, the causes of the collective loss of awareness of its identity, Christianization of that culture and the consequences of this for the history of the region. To give definition to his Mesopotamian discourse, he began by marking out his opposition to his detractors, who denied any civilization-based identity to non-Greek peoples. He brought particular attention to the great richness of the heritage of Mesopotamia. Throughout his Chronicle may be detected this sense of continuity marking the history of Mesopotamia from ancient times until the Christian era, a historical stance which aligned his writing with that of earlier historians from the time of Berosus and Tatian.
On the Mesopotamian ascendance of the Aramaic kingdom of Edessa (from 132 BCE until 242 CE), he wrote: ‘the people who had previously settled there, and who were of the Aramaic race, prevailed over their enemies: having also freed themselves from the suzerainty of the Parthians, they enthroned in Edessa as king one of their number by name of Abgar. He was valiant, mighty and skilful in war. He and his sons after him maintained their dominion as far as the boundary of Babylon for 380 years, from the year 180 of the Greek era until the year 560 of the same calendar. These kings of Edessa reigned also over the land of the Armenians until these too had established a king for themselves. Several of the royal line of Edessa also took the name of Abgar, for they were filled with affection for the greatness of Abgar I.’
Concerning the origin of the term Assyro-Chaldean, Michael asks: ‘Why are they named Chaldeans, and whence were they called Assyrians? We can learn this from the writings of Polyhistor(FN35) and of Abydenus,(FN36) with whom the Hebrew Josephus is in agreement, and from whom Eusebius Pamphylus, bishop of Caesarea, has drawn information.’ Speaking of the descendants of the three sons of Noah, Eusebius declared: ‘Shem, the third of Noah’s sons, had five sons who dwelt in Asia, which extended from the river Euphrates to the Indian Ocean. Elam had as descendants the Elamites, who were the ancestors of the Persians; Ashur dwelt in the city of Nineveh, and gave the name of Assyrians to those who obeyed him; Arphaxad gave his name to the Arphaxadians; and Aram governed the Arameans whom the Greeks called Syrians. Among these, Ouç (Aram’s eldest son, Joshua) built Trachon and Damascus, between Palestine and Coele-Syria. They were all called, in general, Chaldeans, from the ancient name, or Assyrians, that is, Athorayé, from the name of Ashur who dwelt in Nineveh.’
3. The missionary policy of the Eastern Church in Asia: Respect for local popular traditions
‘The Latin Church, in its missionary zeal, contributed to the ruin of Christianity among the Turks. The Nestorian faith, implanted over centuries, had had time to take root; it held fast to the soil like a native plant; but Roman Catholicism was viewed as the religion of foreigners. The Turkish Christian, converted by a Latin missionary, entered the bosom of the universal Church, but in doing so he left the community of the nation; he was a deserter … From the 14th century onwards, the claims to supremacy of the Latins and their narrowness of spirit erected barriers between East and West … Nestorianism, left to itself, could have survived; but the interference of foreigners was equally fatal for it among the Turks and the Chinese.’
Lion Cahun(FN37)
The Eastern Orthodox Church, using the Syriac language, has always exuded an oriental spirit on the strength of its benevolent reception among peoples of the Altaic family (Turks, Mongols and Tatars). In 1280 it embraced 250 eparchies (dioceses), incorporated into 28 metropolitan archdioceses stretching from Babylon to Khan Baliq (the Turkish name for Beijing), and encompassing several tens of millions of believers, all recognizing the patriarch of the Eastern Orthodox Church as their supreme spiritual head.
Wherever it became established, the Eastern Church took heed of the culture of the local people, and became indigenised and acculturated as a result. Among its leading patriarchs and prelates were Asiatic Chinese, both Ungut and Uighur. The patriarch Mar Timothy 1 (728-823) asserted that the hymn Trisagion(FN38) was recited by Asian peoples without the addition of the words ‘who was crucified for our sake’ (in Syriac Mchiha etskep khlapen), so as not to affront the beliefs of Hindus, Buddhists and Daoists who could not accept that a saviour sent by the divinity was crucified on a cross. This Church had a marked capacity to adapt to the environments, cultures, civilisations and customs of local peoples. In thus doing, it showed respect for the dignity of the peoples. Its clergy was in large part autochthonous. The missionaries maintained Aramaic (also called Syriac) as the sacred liturgical language, but permitted readings and hymns in the local language. There existed lectionaries, cantides and psalters in languages of such different affinities as Hunnish, Persian, Uighur, Turkish, Mongol, Chinese and Sogdian. During his Asian journey, Guillaume de Rubrouck noted in his Itinerarium that the Nestorians in Central Asia recited their liturgy and conserved their sacred texts in Aramaic, but they did not understand it. Nevertheless, the Asian peoples did not perceive this as some kind of foreign growth on their national body. This is attested by the Si-ngan-fou stela in China, whose exposition of doctrine makes use of Buddhist and Daoist terms which might make Christianity more comprehensible to the followers of these beliefs.
To that extent, the meeting of Mesopotamian Christianity with the peoples of Asia occurred within a symbiosis of mutual respect of dignity.
Asia becomes Nestorian while maintaining its culture
From Mesopotamia to Asia
Mar Timothy I, patriarch of the Eastern Church, wrote thus:
Those monks who crossed the sea as far as the Indies and China took with them no other baggage but a staff and their provisions pouch… So it has befallen that in our time … the king of the Turks with almost all of his people has given us his former godless ways and has converted to Christianity, thanks to the influence of the great virtue of Christ, to whom all are subject. The king requested by letter that we appoint a metropolitan for all the territory of his kingdom, which we have done with the help of God … So indeed it is that, in all the regions of Babylon, of Persia and of Ator (Assyria), in all the regions of the East, among the Hindus and the Chinese, the Tibetans and the Turks, and in all the lands who show obedience to this patriarchal throne … this trisagion is recited without the addition of these words — who was crucified for us — … In these days, the Holy Spirit will consecrate a metropolitan for the Turks; and we shall prepare another for the Tibetans.
These extracts are striking. The Eastern Church experienced an extraordinary missionary energy and a remarkable expansion into Asia.(FN39) Between the 3rd and the 13th centuries it had broadened the areas of reception for its religious, cultural and linguistic message from the Mediterranean to the Pacific. Already in the 6th century, at the time of the patriarch Mar Aba I (540-52), the expansionist movement was intensifying and extending over the whole of Asia. It was actively engaged in the Mediterranean basin, in the Near- and Middle-East, in Central Asia and in the Far East, not only westwards from Mesopotamia to the shores of the Mediterranean, to Palestine, Cyprus(FN40) and up into Armenia, but also southwards, reaching the Malabar Coast of India, Ceylon, the islands of Borneo, Sumatra and Java, the Moluccas and Malaya, and eastwards as far as the south-east of Siberia and the heart of the Chinese empire. The Italian traveller Ludovico di Varthema recorded in his Journey to Arabia and the East Indies (1503-8)(FN41) that in 1506 he met in Bengal some Nestorian traders travelling from Sarnam (or Ayuthia), the former capital of Siam. They accompanied him to Pegu (Burma) where the king had 1000 Christians in his service. The merchants took Ludovico di Varthema with them when they went on a trading journey to Borneo, Java and the Molucca islands.
From Central Asia to China and South-East Asia
In their proselytizing zeal, the missionaries of the Eastern Church followed the trading paths and caravan routes, principally those by which silk and spices were conveyed. Very prosperous Christian communities were set up within populations of diverse origins, among the Uighurs, Kirghiz, Merkites, Turks, Tatars, Huns, Naiman, Uirates, Kara-Khitai, Khitans and Tanguts. The first penetration of the Nestorians into China is attested from before the advent of the T’ang dynasty in 520.
Tibet (in Aramaic Beth Tuptayé) had its own metropolitan in the 8th century, with several bishops under his authority. Indeed, since the second half of the 7th century, the Tibetan tribes had come under the influence of these apostolic missionaries.
The first universal Church to recognize local particularities: Chinese stela of Si-ngan-fou
Well before the arrival of the Franciscans and the Jesuits, China was a field of evangelization for the Eastern Church. Religious monuments in this country, such as the bilingual memorial (in Chinese and in Aramaic) of Si-ngan-fou, erected at Xi’an in 781, attest to its missionary activities since 635. This Xi’an stela was uncovered by the Jesuit Fathers in 1623. This was an event of considerable importance in Europe at the time. Voltaire referred to it with some surprise, mocking its authenticity in a letter of 1776. He considered it as ‘a curiosity’, perhaps even an example of ‘charlatanism’, put out by ‘heretical’ Nestorians. He wrote: ‘But these commentators do not realize that the Christians of Mesopotamia were Nestorians who did not believe that the Holy Virgin was the Mother of God. As a result, by taking Olupen for a Chaldean sent via the clouds of blue to convert China, one might suppose that God deliberately sent a heretic to pervert this fine kingdom’.(FN42)
The Chinese form of the name of the first Chaldean missionary mentioned on the stela is Alopen (Abraham or Laban), accompanied by 70 monks. The stela is divided into five parts. The largest section is made up of a doctrinal summary of the faith of the Eastern Church, drawn up by a Sogdian priest named Adam (given the Chinese name of King-Tsing), of the monastery of Ta T’sin, a personality competent in the Chinese, Uighur and Sogdian languages. Mention is made on the stela of God, the Trinity, the creation, original justice, the Fall, the Incarnation, redemption, the Ascension….
The stela also records the several stages of the expansion of the Eastern Church in China and the favourable welcome reserved for it by the T’ang dynasty, together with the circumstances of the stela’s erection. The name of Mar Khenanisho II, patriarch in 774, figures on this stela. This ‘religion of radiance’ (Jingjiao) was to be protected by virtue of an imperial order of the sovereign of the T’ang dynasty, T’ai-Tsung, promulgated in 638, authorizing the missionaries to build churches and open seminaries: ‘The monk Alopen of Persia has travelled from far with Scriptures and teachings. We find this religion excellent and separate from the world, and we acknowledge that it is lif e-giving for humanity. It comes to the aid of living creatures and is beneficent for the race of men. In consequence it is worthy to be spread about the whole of the Celestial Empire. We decree that a monastery should be constructed by the appropriate service in the Yi-ming quarter and that twenty-one priests will be assigned to it.’
During the reign of this same emperor, the patriarch of the Eastern Church, Mar Ishoyabh II of Gdala (628-46) sent missionary preachers to China, who were received by Fang-hiuen Ling, the emperor’s minister, whose name figures on the stela. Kao Tsung (650-83), the emperor T’ai T’sung’s successor, extended the advantages conceded, conferring on Alopen the title of ‘guardian of the great teaching’. The emperors Hiouen Tsung (712-54) and Sou Tsung (756-62) were to maintain the same policy. In this way, the Eastern Church spread throughout six provinces and several monasteries were constructed throughout the country. It was in such favourable circumstances as these that the Eastern Church was able to be propagated in several Chinese provinces, notably in the north of the country. The patriarch Mar Timothy I, whose patriarchate was contemporary with the stela, raised the bishop of China to the rank of metropolitan, with several suffragan bishops to assist him.
But the nationalist reaction in China, which accompanied the coming to power of the Ming dynasty in 1368, reduced to nothing all chance of survival of the Eastern Church. Everything collapsed thereafter, and it is only the vestiges that are occasionally discovered, together with archaeological excavations, which provide glimpses here and there of the buried but splendid past of the Christians from Mesopotamia who remained respectful of the identity of the peoples they ministered to.
Joseph Yacoub
Catholic University of Lyon
Translated from the French by Colin Anderson
1. Cf. Joseph Yacoub, ‘Une notion fondamentale [A fundamental notion]’ (Yacoub, 2006: 9).
2. On the notion of dignity see Thomas E. Hill, Jr, ‘Dignité’ in the Dictionnaire d’éthique et de philosophie morale [Dictionary of Ethics and Moral Philosophy], under the direction of Monique Canto-Sperber, pp. 438-43. Paris: PUF, 1996.
3. The Declaration of the Principles of International Cultural Co-operation, adopted by Unesco on 4 November 1966, which grants equal rank to both majority and minority cultures, declares among its principles the following: ‘1. Each culture has a dignity and a value which must be respected and preserved. 2. Every people has the right and the duty to develop its culture. 3. In their rich variety and diversity, and in the reciprocal influences they exert on one another, all cultures form part of the common heritage belonging to all mankind.’ (Art. 1): The Mexico City Declaration on Cultural Policies (Unesco), adopted on 6 August 1982, insists that ‘it is necessary to recognise the equality in dignity of all cultures and the right of every people and every cultural community to assert, preserve and see respected its cultural identity’. (Art. 9): For its part, the Unesco Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity (2 November 2001) stipulates: ‘The defence of cultural diversity is an ethical imperative, inseparable from respect for human dignity.’ (Art. 4): And the Convention for the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, adopted on 20 October 2005, asserts the principle of equal dignity and respect for all cultures: ‘The protection and promotion of the diversity of cultural expressions presuppose the recognition of equal dignity of and respect for all cultures, including the cultures of persons belonging to minorities and indigenous peoples.’ (Art. 2.3): As for the preambles of the two International Pacts of the UN relating to human rights, adopted in 1966, it is there declared, in reiteration of the first ‘considering’ clause of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (10 December 1948) that those States party to the Declaration recognized ‘the dignity inherent to all members of the human family and their equal and inalienable rights, which constitute the foundation of liberty, justice and peace in the world’.
4. See François Nau, Histoire et sagesse d’Ahikar l’Assyrien [Story and Wisdom of Ahikar the Assyrian], which incorporates a translation of the Syriac versions, showing the principal differences of the Arabic, Armenian, Greek, Neo-Syriac, Slavic and Romanian versions (Nau, 1909) 308 pp.
5. The reader is referred to the legislative texts and law codes of ancient Mesopotamia, the earliest of which date back to the third millennium BCE: those of Urukagina, Gudea, Ur-Nammu, Lipit-Ishtar, Eshunna, the Hammurabi Code, the Laws of Assyria and Babylon, as well as the Epic of Gilgamesh, the Babylonian creation poem Enuma Elish, the Wisdom of Ahikar the Assyrian and Aramaic texts.
6. On this aspect see Léon Epsztein, La justice sociale dans le Proche-Orient ancien et le peuple de la Bible [Social Justice in the Ancient Near East and among Peoples of the Bible], chapter I of Part I, ‘The laws of Mesopotamia’ (Epsztein, 1983: 19-39).
7. On the Syriac literary and philosophical heritage, see: Antoine Guillaumont, ‘Littérature syriaque’, in Histoire des littératures, I, Littératures anciennes orientales et orales [Ancient Eastern and Spoken Literatures] of Gallimard’s Encyclopédie de la Pléiade (Guillaumont, 1993: 753-68); Paul Garelli, ‘La pensée préphilosophique en Mésopotamie [Pre-philosophical thought in Mesopotamia]’ in Histoire de la philosophie, I, Orient-Antiquité, of Gallimard’s Encyclopédie de la Pléiade (Garelli, 1969/1999: 24-49); and Jean-Jacques Glassner, ‘La philosophie mésopotamienne’ in L’Univers philosophique, I, of the Encyclopédie philosophique universelle (Glassner, 1989: 1637-42).
8. Jean Dauviller, entry ‘Chaldéen (droit) [Chaldean (law code)]’, Dictionnaire de droit canonique (Dictionary of Canon Law), Vol. III (Paris, Letouzey et Ané, 1942: col. 294).
9. Charles Virolleaud, ‘La Littérature assyro-babylonienne [Assyrian-Babylonian Literature]’ (Virolleaud, 1993: 270).
10. Guillaume Cardascia, Les lois assyriennes [The Laws of Assyria], introduction, translation, commentary (Cardascia, 1969: 84).
11. See: The Code of Hammurabi [the quotations in English included in this article are taken from an on-line English translation of the Code by L.W. King The author of the article in the original French cites the French translation by André Finet (2002) 172pp.; The Epic of Gilgamesh, intro by N.K. Sanders (1972) 128 pp. [prose translation]; The Epic of Gilgamesh, translated and edited by Benjamin IL Foster (2001) 229 pp. [verse translation] [Note: The author also cites the French translation by Raymond Jacques Tournay and Aaron Schaffer (1992) 340pp.]; Léon Epsztein, La justice sociale dans le Proche-Orient ancien et le peuple de la Bible [Social Justice in the Ancient Near East and among Peoples of the Bible] (Epsztein, 1983); Lois de l’Ancien Orient [Laws of the Ancient Near East], translation and commentaries by M.-Joseph Seux (Seux, 1983) 130 pp.; Samuel Noah Kramer, L’Histoire commence à Sumer [History Begins at Sumer], preface by Jean Bottéro (Kramer, 1994) 316 pp.; Leo Oppenheim, Ancient Mesopotamia, Portrait of a Dead Civilization, edition revised and completed by Erica Reiner (Oppenheim, 1977) 445 pp.; Georges Conteneau, Everyday Life in Babylon and Assyria (Conteneau, 1966) 324 pp.
See also the following articles in the Dictionnaire de l’Antiquité, under the direction of Jean Leclant (Paris: PUF, 2005): ‘Mésopotamie’ by Olivier Rouault and Béatrice André-Salvini, pp. 1377-80; ‘Gilgamesh’ by André Cavignaux, pp. 971-2; ‘Législation mésopotamienne’ by André Finet, pp. 1229-31; ‘Babylone et Babylonie’ by Marcel Sigrist, pp. 300-4; ‘Assyrie’ by Maria Grazia Masetti-Rouault, pp. 254-6.
12. See his book Les civilisations de l’Orient ancien (Deshayes, 1969: 413).
13. See Virolleaud (1993: 253-76).
14. On the religions of Mesopotamia see Raymond Jestin, ‘La religion sumérienne’ (Jestin, 1970: 154-202) and Jean Nougayrol, ‘La religion babylonienne’ (Nougayrol, 1970: 203-49).
15. For example, Shamash was the god of justice and truth.
16. See Kramer (1994: 134).
17. The Epic of Gilgamesh. A New Translation, Analogues and Criticism, translated and edited by Benjamin R. Foster (see Foster, 2001: 75-6, 82).
18. See also Bottéro (1952); and, in English translation, Mesopotamia, Writing, Reasoning and the Gods, translated by Zainab Bahrani and Marc van de Mieroop (1992) 311 pp.
19. The word Shamash passed down into the Aramaic language where it means ‘to serve’.
20. See Lois de l’Ancient Orient [Laws of the Ancient Near East], M.-Joseph Seux (1983: 20).
21. See Guillaumont (1993: 753).
22. On Tatian, cf.: Louis Sako’s Tatien (Sako: 1995, 103-8); Jean-Claude Fredouille’s ‘Tatien’ (Fredouille, 1984: 2470-1); Aimé Puech’s Recherches sur le Discours aux Grecs de Tatien [Research on Tatian’s ‘Oration to the Greeks’], followed by a French translation of the oration with notes (Puech, 1903) 158 pp. [Translator’s note: The quotations from Tatian given in the original French article are from this source; those in this English translation are by J. E. Ryland from the on-line source]; Pierre Yousif, ‘Il patrimonio culturale greco secondo Taziano [The cultural heritage of Greece according to Tatian]’, in Pavan and Cozzoli (1986: 73-95); and ‘Tatianus’ in the Review of the Syriac Academy of Baghdad (Majallat majma al-Lugha al-Suriyaniah), in Arabic (‘ratianus’, 1977: 147-64).
23. On Berosus, see Javier Campos Daroca, ‘Bérose de Babylone’, in the Dictionnaire des philosophes antiques, Vol. II (Campos Daroca, 1994: 95-104). See also G.P. Verbrugghe and J.M. Wickersham’s Berossos [sic] and Manetho Introduced and Translated (Verbrugghe and Wickersham, 2000).
24. In Asia Minor.
25. Juba II (c. 52 BCE — 23 CE), son of Juba I, became the Berber king of Mauretania (part of Numidia). Hostile towards the Romans, he was removed to captivity in Rome. A man of great learning, he wrote works of history and archaeology in Greek, notably Libyca.
26. Cf.: François Nau’s French translation — Bardesane, l’astrologue, Le Livre des lois des pays — with an introduction and numerous notes of Bardaisan the astrologer, The Book of the Laws of Divers Countries (Nau, 1899) 62 pp. [Translator’s note: a full English translation of the Book of the Laws of Divers Countries may be found by accessing the website which is the source of the English quotations included in this article]; ‘Bardesane, Bardesanites [Bardaisanites]’, Dictionnaire de Théologie Catholique (DTC), Paris, Letouzey et Ané, 1903, fasc. X, col. 391-401 [A similar source in English is the entry ‘Bardesanes and Bardesanites’ in the Catholic Encyclopedia of 1913]; Louis Sako’s Bardaisan of Edessa, in Arabic (Sako, 1996: 36-40); Javier Texidor’s ‘Bardesane de Syrie’ (Texidor, 1994: 54-63); and by the same author, Bardesane d’Edesse. La première philosophie syriaque [Bardaisan of Edessa. The Beginnings of Syriac Philosophy] (Texidor, 1992).
27. Having a considerable knowledge of India, Bardaisan said this of the laws of the Brahmins: ‘Among the Hindus, the Brahmins, of whom there are many thousands and tens of thousands, have a law forbidding to kill at all, or to pay reverence to idols, or to commit impurity, or to eat flesh, or to drink wine; and among these people not one of these things ever takes place. Thousands of years, too, have elapsed during which these men have been governed by this law which they made for themselves.’
28. See Aphrahate, le sage persan, Les Exposés [The Demonstrations], 2 vols, translated from the Syriac with notes and index by Marie-Joseph Pierre (Paris, Editions du Cerf, Sources chrétiennes, nos 349 and 359, 1988-9, vol. 1, p. 473. [Translator’s note: A brief biography in English of Aphraate’s life and a summary of the Demonstrations may be found under the article ‘Aphraates’ in the Catholic Encyclopedia. An English translation of eight ‘Demonstrations’ was published by Dr John Gwynn [Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, New York, 1898]. Translations of Demonstration II: On Love and Demonstration VII: On Penitents, by Frank Hudson Hallock, published originally by the Journal of the Society of Oriental Research, Nos 14 (1930) and 16 (1932) are accessible on line at].
29. Translator’s note: The original quotations in French were drawn from the Marie-Joseph Pierre translation, cited above — I(1), p. 386. In the absence of an available direct English translation of the Demonstration quoted from (IX, On Humility), the English version given here is a further translation from the French. This applies to the subsequent quotations as well.
30. Idem, p. 387.
31. Idem, p. 472.
32. Idem, vol. II, pp. 716-29. Demonstration XVI devoted to the call of the Gentiles.
33. Idem, vol. II, p. 789.
34. Translated into French by Jean-Baptiste Chabot under the title of Chronique de Michel le Syrien, 1899-1910, 4 vols. The original French article draws its quotes from this source. [Translator’s note: this French version appears to be the only translation of the Chronicle to have been made into a western language, though there was apparently also a translation made into Armenian, from which another French translation was made by Victor Langlois in 1868. As a consequence, the work appears not to have been translated into English. The quotations given here are hence further translations of Chabot’s translation of the original]. On the Chronicle, see Ephrem-Isa Yousif, Les Chroniqueurs syriaques (Yousif, 2002: 123-204).
35. A Greek writer from Miletus, died 75 BCE. Alexander Polyhistor was the author of a History of the Eastern Peoples.
36. A Greek historian, Abydenus lived in Egypt under the early Ptolemies. He was the author of Assyrians and Chaldeans, extracts from which were taken over by Eusebius of Cesarea, Cyril of Alexandria and Georges Syncelle.
37. Léon Cahun, Introduction to the history of Asia, Turks and Mongols from their origins until 1405 (Cahun, 1896: 408-9).
38. A Greek word which means ‘thrice-holy’. This triple address of God found in the liturgies of the Eastern Church is expressed thus: ‘Holy God, holy and strong, holy and immortal, have pity on us’.
39. See François Nau, l’Expansion nestorienne en Asie [The Nestorian Expansion into Asia] (1913: 297-371).
40. Cf. Joseph Yacoub, ‘La reprise à Chypre en 1445 du norm de “Chaldéens” par les fidèles de l’Église d’Orient [The reassumption in Cyprus in 1445 of the name of ‘Chaldeans’ by the believers of the Eastern Church]’ (Yacoub, 2004: 378-90).
41. The first edition of this book was published in Rome in Italian in 1510 under the title Itinerario. Cf. Voyage de Ludovico Varthema en Arabie et aux Indes orientales (1503-1508), translated by Paul Teyssier (di Varthema, 1510/2004) 365 pp.
42. Cf. Voltaire (1879) CEuvres complètes [Complete Works] vol. 29, p. 465.
Bottéro, Jean (1952) La religion babylonienne. Paris: PUF.
Bottéro, Jean (1992) Mesopotamia, Writing, Reasoning and the Gods, English trans. Zainab Bahrani and Marc van de Mieroop. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
Cahun, Léon (1896) Introduction to the History of Asia, Turks and Mongols from Their Origins until 1405. Paris: A. Colin.
Campos Daroca, Javier (1994) ‘Bérose de Babylone’, in the Dictionnaire des philosophes antiques, I, II. Paris: CNRS Editions.
Cardascia, Guillaume (1969) Les lois assyriennes. Paris: Editions du Cerf.
Conteneau, Georges (1966) Everyday Life in Babylon and Assyria. New York: The Norton Library.
Deshayes, Jean (1969) Les civilisations de l’Orient ancien. Paris: Editions Arthaud, col. Les grandes civilisations.
Dictionnaire de l’Antiquité (2005) Contains entries for: ‘Assyrie’ by Maria Grazia Masetti-Rouault, pp. 254-6; ‘Babylone et Babylonie’ by Marcel Sigrist, pp. 300-4; ‘Gilgamesh’ by Andrd Cavignaux, pp. 971-2; ‘Législation mésopotamienne’ by André Finet, pp. 1229-31; ‘Mésopotamie’ by Olivier Rouault and Béatrice André-Salvini, pp. 1377-80. Paris: PUF.
Epic of Gilgamesh (1972) Introduction by N.K. Sanders to prose translation. London: Penguin Books.
Epic of Gilgamesh (1994) French translation by Raymond Jacques Tournay and Aaron Schaffer. Paris: Editions du Cerf.
Epic of Gilgamesh (2001) Translated and edited by Benjamin R. Foster, verse translation. New York: W.W. Norton.
Epsztein, Léon (1983) La justice sociale dans le Proche-Orient ancien et le peuple de la Bible. Paris: Editions du Cerf, Cahiers Evangile.
Fredouille, Jean-Claude (1984) ‘Tatien’ in the ‘Dictionnaire des philosophes’, under the direction of Denis Huisman, vol. II. Paris: PUF.
Garelli, Paul (1969/1999) ‘La pensée préphilosophique en Mésopotamie’, in Histoire de la Philosophie, vol. I, Orient-Antiquité. Paris: Gallimard, Encylopédie de la Pléiade, col. Folio/Essais.
Glassner, Jean-Jacques (1989) ‘La philosophie mésopotamienne’, in L’Univers philosophique, I. Paris: PUF, Encydopédie philosophique universelle.
Guillaumont, Antoine (1993) ‘Littérature syriaque’, in Histoire des littératures, I, Littératures anciennes orientales et orales. Paris: Gallimard, Encyclopédie de la Pléiade.
Hill, Thomas E., Jr (1996) ‘Dignité’, in Dictionnaire d’éthique et de philosophie morale. Paris: PUF.
Jestin, Raymond (1970) ‘La religion sumérienne’, in Histoire des religions, I. Paris: Gallimard, Encyclopédie de la Pléiade, col. Folio/Essais 1999.
Kramer, Samuel Noah (1994) L’Histoire commence à Sumer, preface by Jean Bottéro. Paris: Flammarion, col. Champs.
Nau, François (1899) Bardesane, l’astrologue, Le Livre des lois des pays. Paris: Librairie orientaliste Paul Geuthner.
Nau, François (1909) Histoire et sagesse d’Ahikar l’Assyrien. Paris: Letouzey et Ané.
Nau, François (1913) l’Expansion nestorienne en Asie. Paris: Annales du Musée Guimet.
Nougayrol, Jean (1970) ‘La religion babylonienne’, in Histoire des religions, I. Paris: Gallimard, Encyclopédie de la Pléiade, col. Folio/Essais 1999.
Oppenheim, Leo (1977) Ancient Mesopotamia, Portrait of a Dead Civilization, rev. edn by Erica Reiner. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.
Puech, Aimé (1903) Recherches sur le Discours aux Grecs de Tatien [Research on Tatian’s ‘Oration to the Greeks’], followed by a French translation of the oration with notes. Paris: University of Paris, Bibliothèque de la Faculté des Lettres, XVII, Félix Alcan.
Sako, Louis (1995) Tatien, in Arabic, Baghdad, Star of the East (Najm al-Machrek) 2: 103-8.
Sako, Louis (1996) Bardaisan of Edessa, in Arabic, Baghdad, Star of the East (Najm al-Machrek) 5(2): 36-40.
Seux, M.-Joseph (1983) Lois de l’Ancient Orient, trans. and commentaries by M.-Joseph Seux. Paris: Editions du Cerf, Cahiers Evangile, supplement 56, service biblique Evangile et Vie.
‘Tatianus’ (1977) in the Review of the Syriac Academy of Baghdad (Majallat majma al-Lugha al-Suriyaniah, in Arabic), 3: 147-64.
Texidor, Javier (1992) Bardesane d’Edesse. La première philosophie syriaque. Paris: Editions du Cerf.
Texidor, Javier (1994) ‘Bardesane de Syrie’, in Dictionnaire des philosophes antiques, vol. II, pp. 54-63. Paris: CNRS Editions.
Varthema, Ludovico di (1510/2004) Itinerario. [Voyage de Ludovico Varthema en Arabie et aux Indes orientales (1503-1508)], trans. Paul Teyssier. Paris: Editions Chandeigne, Col. Magellane.
Verbrugghe, G.P. and Wickersham, J.M. (2000) Berossos and Manetho Introduced and Translated: Native Traditions in Ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
Virolleaud, Charles (1993) ‘La Littérature assyro-babylonienne’, in Histoire des littératures I: Littératures anciennes orientales et orales, pp. 253-76, 270. Paris: Gallimard, Encyclopédie de la Pléiade.
Yacoub, Joseph (2004) ‘La reprise à Chypre en 1445 du nom de “Chaldéens” par les fidèles de l’Église d’Orient’, Istina (Paris) 4 (Oct-Dec): 378-90.
Yacoub, Joseph (2006) ‘Une notion fondamentale’, Dernieres Nouvelles d’Alsace [newspaper] 4 April, p. 9.
Yousif, Ephrem-Isa (2002) Les Chroniqueurs syriaques. Paris, L’Harmattan.
Yousif, Pierre (1986) ‘Il patrimonio culturale greco secondo Taziano’, in M. Pavan and U. Cozzoli (eds), L’ereditá classica nelle lingue orientali, pp. 73-95. Rome: Istituto della enciclopedia italiana.